A New Fitness Rx?
By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 1 in 4 of us don’t spend any of our free time walking, gardening, or doing any real physical activity. Given all the known benefits of exercise—it strengthen’s our bones and muscles, reduces stress and depression, and can even help us manage our weight—why do so many of us fall off (or fail to even get on) the fitness bandwagon?
Lack of time or motivation, and having too many family and work demands are some common excuses many of us use for not being more active. Unfortunately, if we don’t make fitness a priority or put it on our to do list, we may very well pay a big price. According to the CDC, physical inactivity is a leading cause of preventable death, and accounts for 1 in 10 deaths—just like obesity and overweight—in the U.S.
If, despite your best efforts, you haven’t yet committed to exercise as a way of life, a new initiative called The Weekly Fitness Challenge (WFC) may inspire you to once and for all turn intent into action.
Phase one of the WFC began in 2009 when a single tweet led to a social media blitz that inspired fitness, health, medical, and nutrition expert volunteers to support the initiative. But the seeds of the WFC, an initiative designed to educate, motivate, and lead inactive people to get active, were first planted 16 years ago by fitness expert Geoff Hampton. When his young, vibrant first wife and the mother of his two daughters was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, Hampton began an 8-1/2 year journey to save his wife. As they explored various options, Hampton was troubled by the countless cases of horrific illnesses and health conditions he encountered. Many of the people he came across were inactive, overweight, or both, and he knew that in a lot of cases, poor eating habits and inactivity—things that were modifiable—were to blame. Although Hampton couldn’t help save his wife, he embarked on a mission to help inactive people—especially those who tried and failed before—to take charge of their lives and make positive, permanent lifestyle changes. After creating and implementing several community health initiatives, first in New Jersey, and then in San Diego, he created the WFC.
Today marks the phase 2 kick off of the WFC. This community outreach component includes a 3 day event in Knoxville, Tennessee called “The Gift of Health." Hampton, Lori Shemek, PhD, founder of DLS HEALTHWORKS, LLC, and other leaders of the WFC will speak about exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle modification in an effort to educate, motivate, and inspire people to take better care of themselves and encourage others to do the same.
Although the campaign is still in its infancy, and as an awareness of all the components of the campaign grow domestically and internationally, weekly targeted learning applications will be added to community programs to help participants learn about and implement healthful lifestyle behaviors one week at a time.
If you’re inspired to make fitness a part of your life and to reap the many benefits an active lifestyle provides, here are some tips from Nancy Clark, MS, RD, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and Larysa Didio, celebrity trainer and fitness author, to help you get started:
* Choose an activity/exercise that has purpose and meaning. “Instead of hopping on another exercycle to nowhere, why not ride your bike to work (or at least part of the way), walk to the store to get the newspaper, or start a daily or weekly walking group with friends,” says Clark.
* Start slow and build gradually. Didio says “Most new workout programs get ditched because people get a little too enthusiastic initially, and then burn out quickly. Instead of going gung-ho, why not start with a 20 minute workout 3 times a week and build from there.”
* Fuel yourself BEFORE you exercise. Clark says “One woman who said she hated to exercise began to enjoy it when she made sure to have a healthy 200 to 300 calorie pre-exercise snack. Looking back, she realized she had been exercising while dieting—no wonder she felt hungry and lacked energy!”
* Stay accountable. “Every Sunday, write down your goals for the week and post them in a place where you know you’ll see them every morning,” says Didio. “That not only makes you accountable, at least to yourself, but serves as a daily reminder to get moving.”
What helps you stay motivated to exercise?
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com. Sign up for free weekly ZIED GUIDE™ newsletter for nutrition tips and news you can use (go to right side of home page at elisazied.com). Follow Elisa on Twitter/elisazied and on Facebook.